Do you have a cat who drives you bananas?
Then maybe you know what it feels like to be try to meet an internal deadline in between chasing her off of the same counter every three minutes.
Let me attempt to be as brief as possible (not my strongest suit) at explaining my lifestyle. The past couple weeks have been very wonky as I adjust to a new schedule. As I’ve explained on my Instagram, certain factors IRL (In my Real Life, for the Internet-shorthand illiterate) have prevented me from keeping up with my intended schedule. Unfortunately, reading and taking notes takes a lot longer than it looks like than my short summaries make it seem. It is also still a part of my main day job, so it can be a little tedious to make myself tackle it in my “free time.” Nonetheless, I am very passionate about keeping up to date in news and politics, particularly in the ever-fluctuating universe that is cannabis policy and research.
This week’s round-up (for really, the first two weeks of September) is only cannabis-related, as opposed to the updates on animal rights and health and fitness related news I also care deeply about providing. I want to get back “on track,” and providing this minimum is the most I am prepared to do at this time. In the future, I will be posting my news-findings on Fridays and uploading new blog content on Sundays.
Right now, I mostly aim to do myself a service by tracking these news items, even though I am thrilled by the idea that a friend or even a stranger might learn something new as well. Even so, my editorial deadlines are important to me, especially since I’ve sacrificed not-nothing by committing to them. To be more frank than I usually intend to be online, I am working a lot to make ends meet.
Part time, I am a legal assistant, managing clients and drafting legal pleadings for an attorney on their behalf. The rest of the week, I am a Rover and Postmate – furry friends and food, two things I love with every fiber of my being! I have chosen this lifestyle deliberately. My past careers in government legal work and corporate start-up culture were experiences I would trade for nothing. However, as I get closer to 30, I have learned more definitively what I want to pursue, and currently, no job possibility as offered me exactly that, even when the benefits package seems bangin’. Instead, I am truly the happiest I have ever been to live in the uncertainty. My schedule is not dictated, and in an American culture where “pay bills and die” seems to be the norm, I consider myself incredibly privileged to choose flexibility, even if my prospects for full-coverage healthcare and vacations are diminished.
I offer that as less of a disclaimer and more as context to what I want to offer to any readers that may stumble across my “work.” (Why did I put work in quotes? Is it a female thing? A millennial thing? An imposter thing? I’m leaving it; I think that in and of itself is context.) With that out of the way, let’s get to (canna)business. As always, bolded statements are those of my own comment and not revealed or insinuated by the source material.
CANNABIS NEWS & POLICY
On August 30th, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams engaged in a back-in-forth on Twitter with the Marijuana Policy Project debating claims in his recent advisory on the effect of cannabis use on the developing brain, including several that have been shown to be inaccurate by other recent studies. His advisory implies that adolescent use of cannabis has increased due to the wave of legalization and decreased perception of harm across age groups, despite recent findings that teen use has consistently decreased since 2002 as reported a couple weeks ago. He also claimed in his discourse that cannabis use “primes the brain” for other substances – a trope of the “gateway theory” – when in fact clinical trials and independent research has shown that cannabis use has reduced cravings for tobacco, opioids, and other drugs. He also cites research that cannabis use is responsible for attention and memory deficits, while a recent meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that these findings are “of questionable clinical importance for most individuals” and may be overstated. An advisory such as the Surgeon General’s may promote greater harm than good; policies regulating alcohol and tobacco have reduced adolescent use to historic lows, and the regulation of cannabis appears to be accomplishing the same.
Thailand has removed cannabis and hemp extracts from the list of controlled substances under the Narcotics Act. Since August 27th, licensed local producers are able to use manufacture certain hemp products over the next 5 years. Cannabis remains illegal for anyone not in the select list of licensed producers. The definition of hemp flowers and stems may have up to 0.5% THC, while seeds may contain up to 0.3%. The Food and Drug Administration in Thailand will also be updating regulations to allow the production of hemp for cash crops and the use of CBD ingredients in foods and cosmetics.
Photo by Dan Freeman
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is also a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, published an opinion piece in The Guardian last week to publicize the Helen Clark Foundation’s new report issued the same day. The report establishes a case for ending cannabis prohibition in the country by voting ‘yes’ on a nationwide referendum in 2020. It cites data from observational studies that 80% of New Zealanders have tried cannabis by the age of 25 as evidence that prohibition has failed. In addition to findings which show that cannabis is no more, if not significantly less harmful than other substances such as alcohol, Clark says that in general drug classification “has been based more on cultural and political factors than on scientific evidence.” Cannabis prohibition in New Zealand, as is evident in the United States and other countries, has disproportionately affected ethnic communities. Māori – an Indigenous population in New Zealand – makes up 15% of the population but Māori aged 17-25 make up 37% of all convictions for drug possession. Clark ends her piece with a paragraph stating that “No useful purpose is served by maintaining its illegal status.”
The parliament of Barbados is currently considering the Medical Cannabis Bill of 2019, which if adopted, the Agriculture Minister Indar Weir has promised members of the Rastafarian movement would be allowed at least 60 acres of land to grow cannabis. He also promises that members would “play a major role” in establishing the industry. The Agriculture Minister also stressed that the proposed legislation would address medical cannabis only. The bill establishes penalization for the “misuse” of cannabis, including fines 15 times the value of medical cannabis, ten years imprisonment, or both. In response, some politicians have expressed other concerns that the bill does not sufficiently differentiate the regulation and licensing of cannabis enterprises from other pharmaceutical products.
Sustainability requirements of Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act are among the strictest in the nation. The regulations target indoor grows especially, considering a report from last year indicates it is the method by which most cultivators produce cannabis. The same report showed that 4% of Denver, Colorado’s power use was used by cannabis cultivation and that the use of the legal states would increase 162% by 2022 if no other regulations are put in place. The legislation requires cultivators to use automatic watering systems and filter wastewater for reuse. No more that 36 watts per sq ft for lighting plants may be used, and lights must be approved by the nonprofit DesignLights Consortium for high-efficiency. Environmental groups have praised the regulations, and increased energy efficiency would likely save a significant amount of money in a competitive market.
In Florida, the Physician Certification Pattern Review Panel’s draft annual report finds that 7% of physicians certified to recommend medical cannabis are responsible for 56% of the recommendations issued between October 1st and March 31st. 89 out of 1,207 physicians recommended cannabis to 94,850 out of 168,810 certified patients. The report doesn’t track the locations of where these certifications are being issued, since physicians are only required to register their primary addresses with the state. The Panel, mandated by the state’s medical cannabis legislation, is required to submit an annual report to the legislature with recommendations based on data from the ordering patterns of physicians who are authorized to recommend medical cannabis. While some members of the panel have expressed public health concerns over the data, the panel doesn’t seem clear on what recommendations it is expected to issue. As a result, the Review Panel chair Sandra Schwemmer asked staff to reach out to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use for “guidelines.” The Panel’s report also finds that 34% of recommendations were issued for chronic, non-malignant pain and 26% each for PTSD and “medical conditions of the same kind or class of the other 12 qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
The Panel’s final report is due in January.
Athlete Rachael Rapinoe and her World Cup-winning twin sister Megan Rapinoe are soft launching their Portland-based CBD company Mendi this month after participating in the competition PitchfestNW this past April. The sisters have expanded their entrepreneurial endeavors from their successful sports training business and apparel line Rapinoe SC. Rachel Rapinoe sat down with the Willamette Week recently to discuss the launch. When they launch their full offerings this fall, they expect to sell out within the first month. Rapinoe says she and her sister have both been using cannabis products for pain management and recovery regularly over the past several years. The line is third-party tested to be totally isolate CBD; Rapinoe says they want to be a brand that can be fully trusted by athletes. The sisters’ brand graduated from the Initiative, a woman-centered start-up accelerator program run by Amy Margolis.
As an update to the previously-reported bill to allow the regulation of cannabis “party buses” in the state of California, a competing bill to instead place a ban the market has passed the state Legislature. Sen. Jerry Hill (D), who introduced the competing bill to regulate cannabis party buses, agreed to shelve his bill “in the interest of public safety”. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declined to comment on whether he would sign the proposed bill to ban instead of regulate the party buses.
Assembly Bill 37 in California, which would allow cannabis businesses to deduct expenses on their state tax filings, passed final vote on September 9th. Federal tax laws and most state personal tax regulations do not allow cannabis businesses to deduct expenses as other industries do due to its status as a controlled substance under federal law. This tax complication is an enormous burden for small cannabis businesses especially, which typically affects minority businesses from entering and thriving in the market the most since these businesses have a more difficult time securing access to capital in the first place. Gov. Newsom has not indicated his position on signing the bill.
The trade association United Cannabis Business Association released an audit last week which found that the illegal cannabis market in California is roughly three times the size of the legal industry. Based on an informal audit of listings on Weedmaps, an online cannabis business directory that recently announced it will only promote legal businesses in the future, the UCBA found that there were 3,757 listings for cannabis storefronts and delivery services in the state. In comparison, the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California has only licensed 873 retailers. Any attempt to quantify the number of illegal cannabis businesses in California would only be an estimate. No regulatory agency tracks such data, and not every illegal business advertises on Weedmaps. As is often restated in efforts to curb the black market for cannabis in the state, factors which contribute to the thriving black market include the high costs from state and local taxes businesses must pass on to consumers and the statistic that only 20% (89 out of 482 cities) of local communities have legalized cannabis sales.
The State Medical Board of Ohio, which decides what conditions may be added to the list of those qualifying for medical cannabis use in the state, rejected a petition to add anxiety and autism spectrum disorder on September 11th. The decision was suspended from a Board meeting earlier this summer over concerns that the benefits of cannabis use for these conditions required greater research. Regulators’ interpretation of the state medical cannabis legislation is that once a condition is added, it cannot be removed. The medical board also believes that children with qualifying conditions cannot be excluded. It seems to many that as a result of fear over the effect of cannabis on children’s developing brains, new conditions have a much greater burden to approval. The next window to petition the Board to review conditions is November 1st through December 31st.
The nonprofit watchdog group Center for Food Safety (CFS) issued a scorecard last week grading CBD producers and manufacturers on their best industry practices. The nonprofit based their rankings on three main categories: Hemp Farming and Organic Certification, Processing, and Testing/Auditing. Among other factors CFS evaluated extraction methods and testing for contaminants. Only 4 companies received “A” grades: Fountain of Health, Green Gorilla, Palmetto Harmony, and RE Botanicals. Nearly half of the companies evaluated received “D” or “F” grades, including Lord Jones, the line of high-end products sold at Sephora and cited as a celebrity favorite, which received an “F.” CFS and spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association, Gwendolyn Ward, urge farmers and producers to voluntarily improve their practices for the benefit of consumers and to “avoid hemp becoming yet another exploited commodity that is not grown sustainably”.
In Pennsylvania, Lebanon County President Judge John Tylwalk has issued a new policy, currently in effect, which prohibits anyone from using medical cannabis while under probation, even if they are a medical cannabis card holder. In his decision, Judge Tylwalk cites the Court’s “broad authority to impose conditions of supervision” to “promote a defendant’s rehabilitation” and cannabis’ status as a Schedule I substance. The Judge is not moved by the individuals his policy affects, justifying the prohibition of a defendant’s medical use of cannabis under state law by the existence of a different crime on their record. “Our society countenances the restriction of a person’s individual liberties if that person commits a crime, and [a person on probation] is no different,” says Judge Tylwalk.
German data firm ABCD has found that New York in the U.S., Karachi in Pakistan, and New Delhi in India rank as the top three cities around the world for cannabis consumption. Only the medical use of cannabis is legal in the state of New York (despite a push by legislators in the past year to adopt recreational use), while cannabis is illegal in Pakistan and only the cultivation of cannabis for industrial use is legal in India. The study lends credence advocates in India who advocate for the safe regulation of the substance. The study, which also ranked the cheapest prices for cannabis around the world, found that if U.S. tax prices were applied in New Dehli, the city alone could raise more than $101 million (in U.S. dollars) annually.
It’s still not midnight on the west coast of America, so I qualify this deadline as made. No suitable amount of thanks can be given to anyone along for this ride. Time to take a well-deserved smoke and snooze.